Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Assumption propers: "pre" and "post" dogma

On All Saints' Day in 1950 Pope Pius XII defined the dogma of the Assumption of St. Mary (body and soul) into heaven at the end of her earthly life as a belief to be held definitively by the faithful. The event of her assumption has been commemorated in the Latin church for centuries, but the propers for the Feast of the Assumption were changed at the time of Pius' definition and the new propers were first used on August 15, 1951. So what was changed?

One might suppose that the old propers were vague about the doctrine of the Assumption, but it is not the case that the term "assumption" was added to the propers. In fact, "Assumption of Our Lady" was already the title of the feast. The Alleluia before the Gospel and the Offertory both state that "Mary has been taken up into heaven," and the Latin original uses the word "assumpta." In addition, the Secret (later known as the 'Prayer over the Offerings') mentioned that Mary "has left this world." The word assumption is also mentioned as the event being celebrated in the Postcommunion prayer.

The pre-1950 propers for the Vigil of the Assumption also mentioned her being "removed from this world" by Christ in the Secret. These Vigil propers remained unchanged after Pius' dogmatic definition in 1950.

What was changed in the propers for the Feast of the Assumption? 

1. The Introit has been replaced. The pre-1950 text uses a composed antiphon with Psalm 44:2, while the post-1950 propers uses the antiphon Revelation 12:1 with Psalm 97:1.

Pre-1950 Introit
Rejoice we all in the Lord, as we celebrate in honor of the blessed Virgin Mary; of her whose feast makes angels rejoice and sets them praising the Son of God. V. Joyful are the thoughts that well up from my heart, a King's honor for my theme. Glory be . . .

Post-1950 Introit 
A great wonder appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and upon her head a crown of twelve stars. V. O sing unto the Lord a new song: for he hath done marvelous things. Glory be . . .
2. The Collect was entirely rewritten.

Pre-1950 Collect
Lord, we beseech thee to forgive thy servants' offenses; and since we are unable to please thee by our own deeds, may we be saved through the intercession of the Mother of thy Son our Lord, who with thee . . .

Post-1950 Collect
Almighty and everlasting God, who didst assume the immaculate Virgin Mary, Mother of thy Son, in body and soul to heavenly glory: Grant, we beseech thee, that we, ever setting our affections on things above, may likewise be partakers of that glory in the world to come; through . . . 

3. The Epistle was changed from Sirach 24:11-20 ("I grew tall like a cedar") to Judith 13:22-25; 15:10 (blessed is the daughter of Jerusalem).

4. The Gradual was changed slightly from Psalm 44:5b,11-12 to Psalm 44:11-12,14.

5. The Alleluia before the Gospel remained unchanged, but the Gospel itself was changed from Luke 10:38-42 (the story of Martha serving and Mary sitting at Jesus' feet) to Luke 1:41-50 (Mary's visit to Elizabeth and the first part of the Magnificat).

Alleluia, alleluia. Mary is taken up into heaven: the host of Angels rejoiceth. Alleluia. 

6. The Offertory changed from a composition describing the Assumption of Mary in the pre-1950 propers to Genesis 3:15a (enmity between the serpent and woman) in the post-1950 propers.

Pre-1950 Offertory
Mary has been taken up into heaven; the angels rejoice, blessing and praising the Lord. Alleluia.

Post-1950 Offertory
I will put enmity between thee and the Woman, and between thy seed and her Seed. 

7. The Secret was rewritten, but remains very similar in sentiment.

Pre-1950 Secret
Lord, may God's mother help thy people with her prayers. We know that she has shared the lot of humankind and left this world, but let us feel that amidst the glories of heaven she pleads our cause before thy throne; through . . .

Post-1950 Secret
Let this oblation of our bounden duty ascend unto thee, O Lord, and at the intercession of the most blessed Virgin Mary, whom thou hast assumed into heaven, may our hearts, enkindled with the fire of thy love, continually long after thee; through . . .

8. The Communion verse (in parallel with the Gospel) was changed from Luke 10:42 ("Mary has chosen the greater portion") to Luke 1:48-49 ("all generations will call me blessed").

9. The Postcommunion (like the Secret) was also rewritten, but it is not altogether clear why since they both express very similar ideas.

Pre-1950 Postcommunion
We who have partaken of thy heavenly banquet, Lord our God, beseech thy mercy. From all the ills that threaten us may we be set free by the intercession of God's mother, whose assumption we here celebrate; through . . .

Post-1950 Postcommunion
Grant, we beseech thee, O Lord, that we who have received this Sacrament of our salvation may, through the merits and intercession of the blessed Virgin Mary whom thou hast assumed into heaven, be brought unto the glory of the resurrection; through . . .

Why were the changes made? As we have noted, it was not to add expression to the doctrine of the assumption of Mary. That was already in the pre-1950 propers. Two things seem to be desired. The first was to remove reference to the Mary and Martha story, especially since the Mary in this story is not the mother of Jesus. The second concern was to place the feast within the context of the order of creation and redemption. Mary is the new Eve who triumphs over the serpent by her divine motherhood and is blessed with the beatitude of the redeemed in the full realization of human salvation--the resurrection of the body to dwell with the Lord.

What about the new Missal of Pope Paul VI? As with most of the missal, the biggest change is in the lectionary. Otherwise, the post-1950 propers remain substantially the same. I don't have access to the new missal in Latin, but in comparing the English, I observe:

1. There are now two "Entrance Antiphons" (what used to be the Introit). The first is Revelation 12:1, which was used in the post-1950 propers. The second option is the composed antiphon from the pre-1950 propers.

2. The Collect is the same as the post-1950 collect.

3. The readings were revised. The Gospel is an extended passage compared with the post-1950 propers and all the other readings are new. Now they are:

Revelation 11:19; 12:1-6, 10 (woman clothed with the sun)
Psalm 45 (the queen is adorned in royal splendor)
1 Corinthians 15:20-26 (humanity obtains resurrection through Christ)
Luke 1:39-56 (Mary visits Elizabeth and sings the entire Magnificat)

4. The Prayer over the Offerings remains the same as the Secret from the 1950 propers.

5. A new preface for the Assumption was composed for the Pauline Missal. Previously, a generic preface of Our Lady was used, into which reference to the specific feast was inserted.

6. The Communion verse and Postcommunion prayer remain the same as the post-1950 propers.